Stephanie Kenemer, French teacher, on Teacher Training and Coaching:
How Karen Rowan disarmed and supported the teachers at my school when she visited:
Terrified. That is emotion my colleagues had when I told them Karen Rowan would be at our school and would love to come give them support during a TRPS/CI lesson. Karen is a long-time friend of mine (we taught our first year together in Colorado – 1995) and even I was terrified. I was told “I can’t even think about it or I throw up” and “I really appreciate your offer, but I’m too nervous”. Drat!
So before school, Karen and I went around and dropped in on teachers just to say hi. Karen had a big smile on her face, bright eyes, and made each teacher smile and laugh. She said, “Oh, but I just want to be a student in the classroom. I’ll only stay for 10 minutes”. It just so happened that she was seeing French classes, and asked if she could give the “Slow down” sign if she got lost. That was great.
She said wonderful things to each teacher as she left. “You’re doing a great job pointing and pausing”. She gave coaching that is really easy for teachers to hear. “Remember to get in as many reps as you can”.
My department chair was too timid to have Karen in her room, but came and watched Karen coach me. That was GREAT! She’s going to do her first story next week and has asked me to come coach. After watching Karen, I know what to do to keep it sweet, simple, and very helpful.
The most important think Karen gave us was confidence and support. I have more TPRSers on my team, and those who are not are now peeking their heads in our rooms.
I am so grateful.
Stephanie Kenemer, September 13, 2015
“I have always wanted to learn French. I think it’s beautiful. When the opportunity arose at the last NTPRS conference, I jumped at the chance. I’m a Spanish teacher so learning another language should be easy; connections should be formed immediately between my first, second language, and soon-to-be third language, right? Well, that is true, but I now understand that it varies by individual as to when, and how, those connections are made. For me, much to my shock and horror, they came rather slowly.
The first day of class I situated myself carefully. I am a second-row and center kind of person. But as the teacher felt that we were too far away, she had people bring their chairs up closer. Suddenly I was more like a middle, to-the-side kind of person. I got out my notes and class began with me voraciously taking notes. If it was written on the wall, it was in my notes. Sometimes I wrote more than I listened. At one point the teacher was going too fast, I held up my “too fast” sign and she thanked me and slowed down. Things were going well, and I felt pretty good.
Imagine my frustration when the very next day, notes and pencil in hand, I found myself getting more and more confused. My enthusiasm was dwindling and I was unwilling to look at my teacher for fear that she would call on me to do something. I was not understanding. Seemingly everyone else around me completely understood, and then there was me. Had I not been stuck in the middle, I would have walked right out of class. After class that day, and with tears in my eyes, I found my teacher. I explained my frustrations and asked for advice. She immediately put me in the front row, asked me to stop taking notes except during breaks, and explained that she would be stopping periodically to make sure I understood. She also asked me to stop her when I was confused. So, I did as she asked. I sat in the front, notes and pencils aside. She stopped and asked me and others what she was saying. She did this a lot (by the way, some people felt like I was being ‘picked on.’ I never saw it that way. To me it was her caring enough about me that she would stop everything to make sure I got it. That’s not cruelty; that’s compassion). Suddenly I was making connections. I was responding and understanding.
On the second to last night of conference I was mentally going over my new French words. I started a story of my own. There was a girl. She wanted to speak French. There was a teacher. She spoke French very fast. The girl had problems. The girl told her teacher. The teacher spoke French slowly. Now the girl spoke French. I was SOO excited that I went to find my teacher and share my story. She cried; I cried. She asked me to speak in front of everyone; I cried some more. But, I said yes.
That is how I found myself in front of the whole conference speaking French and now online. It was hard, but I knew what I was saying, and I was proud of me. The previous night we had traveled to Quebec. I spoke French with my waiter the whole time. Before we left I said (in french), ‘I have been a student of French for four days.’ He corrected me by saying, ‘Four years, you mean.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘four days.’ ‘That’s impossible!’ he said. It sounds impossible, but it wasn’t. It was totally possible. I was in Quebec, speaking and understanding French after four days of class. I know how it sounds, but it really is possible.”
– LOTUS HAZLETT, MANHATTAN, KANSAS
French Student, Burlington, VT, July 2006 Sent by email, 4/17/2007
I took a fluency fast class this summer at the NTPRS conference in Denver. I purposefully chose Arabic because I did not know one word. As a result, I was able to experience TPRS as I imagine my first year students experience it. The experience has profoundly affected my teaching methodology. I learned that repetition is key (For me, this summer,there was no such thing as too much repetition). I futher learned to slow down as I teach. I learned how to teach structures instead of isolated vocabulary. Additionally, I learned how to really make the input comprehensible. At first, because of tradition, I thought that providing an English translation was WRONG. Boy was I WRONG. I now post the structures on chart paper, with their English translations, and I point to them frequently when introducing new structures.
Prior to taking the class, I did not know how to circle. As a student, I was able to experience the effectiveness of this method. Now I circle away. It was interesting to read the stories in Arabic, with the words being written phonetically. Having the readings in the L2 is a key component. At night, in my dorm room, after my brain had cooled off from so much comprehensible input, I would read the stories. By about day two (6 hours)something magical happened, the meanings of the words clicked and I was able to read the stories quite fluently. Now, I make reading in the L2 a priority in my class. Also, the morning of day three, when I woke up I realized that I had been dreaming in Arabic. When I was learning Spanish, this did not happen until about year 2 in college
So, it is my testimony that the fluency fast classes really work and are excellent opportunities for professional development. My life as a teacher is forever changed because of the experience.
– Be blessed, Toni Billingsley
I just want to take a minute to share my experiences learning Spanish in the Fluency Fast classes–maybe some of you are finding the same success. I teach French and have never taken another language until I took Karen Rowan’s beginning Spanish Fluency Fast class and Blaine’s beginning Spanish 2 Fluency Fast class. I also read the first four novels in Blaine’s series.
Well, my son is adopted from Guatemala and I am in currently in the process of Adopting his bio brother from Guatemala as well (OT any prayers you could send to get him home would be greatly appreciated!) Anyway, when I visited Guatemala during Mateo’s (my older son) adoption process, I was able to say a few words in Spanish, but no sentences and no actual conversation.
However, since taking the two FF classes and reading, I’ve been to Guatemala twice, and the difference in my ability to communicate and understand is HUGE. In August when we went, the other couple in the guesthouse asked ME to translate what the nannies said. I told them I don’t speak Spanish, and they said, “Yours is way better than ours.”
I even translated, “The nanny wants to check your son’s diaper and see if the poop is hard or soft.”–NOT a sentence that either Blaine or Karen taught us, LOL.
My last visit to Guatemala (over Thanksgiving) was the first time that NO ONE I had contact with spoke English, so I was completely dependent on my Spanish. At one point the housekeeper sat down and we talked for at least 20 minutes. She told me about her kids, her grandkids, where they lived and worked….now, I missed A LOT of what she said, but I also understood a lot–and it is all because of FF, and the great teaching of Karen and Blaine.
But I’m not just praising FF here–this experience has also made me revisit What I know to be true about communication–understanding language is SOOOO important, and I’ve found that my evaluators think that if kids are listening (ie, if I’m talking and they’re listening) they’re not doing anything–that I need to get them talking. But what I found in Guatemala was that I could say what I needed to say but couldn’t continue the conversation if I couldn’t understand the other person. I’m going to use this example when talking with my evaluators. The big thing I hear is that the kids need to work harder than we do. But LISTENING AND UNDERSTANDING IS HARD WORK–at least it was for me in Guatemala.
I’m so grateful that the FF classes were started and are part of our National conference. I’m a better world citizen and a more reflective teacher because of it. Just my dos quetzales….
– Dori Vittetoe in CO
“My wife and I took Karen’s Spanish class last September and not only did we improve our Spanish quickly, but I literally laughed so hard I cried.”
– John Daugherty, DC, Colorado Springs, Colorado
“I was never stressed. I learned a lot in a short time.”
“I learned a lot. We had fun. She is fabulous — so animated, fun-loving and entertaining.”
“It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant or entertaining way to learn a language.”
“I am fresh from an electrifying week with Mary Holmes who used the TPRS methods on us gringos in Madison, Wisconsin. The experience confirms my belief that TPRS is one of the best language learning methods out there. TPRS is very brain friendly, it is the way humans learn languages – incrementally, with complete understanding, in a relaxing way, with opportunities to ask questions for clarification. I did experience in Mary Holmes’s class the difference between ‘acquiring’ and ‘learning’ Spanish.”
“By the end of the week, I scored a 48 out of 60 on the National Spanish Exam for Spanish I, and we had several who scored in the low 50’s but who had had more Spanish exposure. I find that amazing. I only had 20 hours of Spanish behind me!!!!! And my score was not unique.”
“The long and short of it is that I’m amazed by the amount of Spanish I learned and how quickly I acquired it without true ‘studying.'”
“The whole experience was fantastic. We love your teaching style. It’s great how you keep it so upbeat and build people up…not allowing any negativity. And we both will never forget your ‘muy bien’ with the large ‘sonrie’ and thumbs-up when someone does well. The whole thing is definitely the best learning experience we have had. The last year trying to learn Spanish has been difficult at times. There have been times when we both were ready to stop. It had become so overwhelming trying to get it into our brains that it wasn’t fun anymore. Even being around Spanish speakers three times each week for a total of 5 hours wasn’t making a dent in what we needed to know. We know at least eight people that are interested in the class and after they hear our experience I believe they will be anxious to come. And I already know our teacher on Saturday is interested in coming to a training class to learn the TPRS method. Many, many ‘thank you’s’ for a job well done and all the encouragement. We are ready to get back to the Salon del Reino and start talking with our friends.”
– Bruce & Cynthia
“I tested into fourth year college Spanish. I didn’t know any Spanish before yet was at an advanced college level after just one week. I would never have believed it.”
“I tested out of three semesters of Spanish at MTSU and missed the fourth semester by just one point. I think I was an average student in the class. I learned an astounding amount during this class. I had no idea until I learned another language myself in this way just how good it was. I was amazed by the success of the entire group. This class was a good example of how students of many different levels can work to their own capacity in the same class.”
“If you would have told me that after 3 days of the workshop I would be able to speaking Spanish for almost 4 minutes solo with a camera focused on me, I would have laughed. This would be totally unbelievable to an outsider and it’s pretty wild to me. I am amazed not only by my progress but also of the progress of the entire group. The combination of the stories and the reading is dynamic. I am stunned.”
“I never felt lost or uncomfortable at any time. It was worth every minute. This method of teaching was the most interesting I have ever had. It was never boring. It was always exciting, informative and fun.”
“I trusted the teacher to achieve good things because the good humored care and respect in everything I heard and felt him do. He demonstrated that we would become comfortable in the language and I believed him. He was right. It was a great privilege to have attended. TPRS is a massive contribution to the liberation of education.”
The most effective method ever. The use of humor and the use of unexpected or ridiculous details helped the most.”
“I don’t think anyone will believe the progress we made this week.”
“I loved it. It was a great experience.”
Join us online or in person for a Fluency Fast class, and see for yourself what a week of comprehension-based language learning can do for you!